Newsletter

A fledgling company almost as young as the toddlers and other kids it seeks to outfit is opening a store in Merrifield this month.

LooLous is opening at the Mosaic District next to the clothing store South Moon Under. The company’s owner, Savin Ghaderi, told Tysons Reporter that it will officially open next Monday (Feb. 7).

The business formed last October but kicked off social media campaigns on Instagram and Facebook in 2020. Its website features clothing and items for purchase, with shipping taking one to two business days in the D.C. region.

“Growing up in the area, and operating as a small business, we wanted to do our part to contribute to our local economy, while providing a seamless shopping experience for every consumer — in particular busy moms who are looking for unique, fun pieces for their little ones,” Ghaderi said in an email.

The brand features cardigans and jackets, accessories such as Paris berets and dresses for kids as young as babies.

This will be its first brick-and-mortar store.

“Mosaic District was the ideal location for us as it allows us to provide our consumers with a boutique shopping experience that is exclusive yet also accessible,” Ghaderi also wrote.

The store is where the jewelry shop Alex and Ani was located before it closed the District Avenue location in 2020.

LooLous will have a grand opening event on Feb. 12 that will include refreshments, light snacks and raffles for all.

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

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Morning Notes

McLean House Fire Started by Candle — An unattended candle placed near combustibles started a fire in the living room of a single-family home in the 1500 block of Dominion Hill Court on Saturday (Jan. 8). No injuries were reported, but the fire displaced two residents and resulted in approximately $919,500 in damages. [FCFRD]

Former School Board Member Named to Key Education Position — Elizabeth Schultz, who represented Springfield District on the Fairfax County School Board from 2012 to 2019, has been appointed by incoming Gov. Glenn Youngkin to serve as Virginia’s assistant superintendent of public instruction. Schultz has opposed protections for transgender students and appeared on Fox News to decry teaching that acknowledges racism. [Virginia Mercury]

No Return of Metro Trains in Sight — “Metro riders can expect the current level of limited rail service to continue for three more months after the transit agency’s top official said Thursday that Metro wants to focus on finding the ‘root cause’ of a defect that has sidelined more than half its rail cars since mid-October.” [The Washington Post]

Tysons Startup Launches “Smart” Grocery Delivery Box — “HomeValet, a D.C. Metro area-based startup that has developed a temperature-controlled smart box for grocery deliveries, is now releasing its smart home product to the public and expanding its partnership with Walmart.” [TechCrunch]

FCPS Superintendent Lines Up New Job — Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand will serve as executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, a nonprofit that provides support to and advocates for the state’s superintendents. Brabrand will leave FCPS on June 30 and assume his new position in July. [PR Newswire]

Relocated Jinya Ramen Bar to Open in March — “Local franchise owner Sam Shoja says the Mosaic District ramen shop outgrew its current space. The new corner location will allow for a large semi-enclosed outdoor patio with fire-top tables and an indoor Japanese whiskey lounge.” [Washingtonian]

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Former Zooba head chef Omar Hegazi will serve as executive chef at Tawle, a new Middle Eastern restaurant coming to the Mosaic District (courtesy Tawle)

A buzzy restaurant team from D.C. will open a new Middle Eastern eatery at the Mosaic District in Merrifield this summer.

As the Washingtonian first reported yesterday (Tuesday), Tawle comes from Rose Previte and Mike Schuster, who own Compass Rose and Maydān. The former offers food from around the world, while the latter has drawn praise for its Middle Eastern cuisine and wood-fired grill.

The Mosaic District restaurant will be the pair’s first venture into Virginia, a Maydan spokesperson confirmed.

“We’re excited to join the Northern Virginia community, an area where many of our guests live and now work as well,” Previte said in a statement. “Bringing Tawle to their backyard and the opportunity to reach new guests was an opportunity that drew us to this project.”

The concept for Tawle, which comes from the Arabic word for “table,” was first revealed in September, when plans for a location in a new food hall at International Square in downtown D.C. were announced.

However, the Mosaic restaurant is expected to open first. It is envisioned as a casual spot with family-style meals, prix-fixe menus, and à la carte dishes available for dining in, takeout, and delivery. The venue will include a bar with cocktails, beer, and wine.

Tawle’s executive chef will be Omar Hegazi, whose resume includes stints as head chef of the New York-based Egyptian fast-casual restaurant Zooba and as sous chef at Bourbon Steak in D.C.’s Four Seasons hotel.

The new restaurant will move into the space at currently occupied by Jinya Ramen Bar (2911 District Avenue, Suite 140), but a manager at Jinya’s Mosaic location told Tysons Reporter that the noodle soup eatery isn’t closing.

Instead, it will just be moving a couple of doors down to a larger corner site, presumably Suite 170, which has been vacant since Cyclone Anaya’s Mexican Kitchen shuttered in 2019.

The Jinya manager says there is no definitive date yet for when the relocation will occur.

Fairfax County processed an application from Tawle for an interior renovations permit on Dec. 28, according to county records.

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Monday, Jan. 10

  • Amateur Art! — 6-8 p.m. at Dolley Madison Library (1244 Oak Ridge Ave.) — Explore your creativity. Supplies provided. Registration required.

Tuesday, Jan. 11

  • The Overtones — 7:30 p.m. at Jammin Java (227 Maple Ave East) — An a cappella group tied to James Madison University performs music worthy of Hollywood and Nashville. Cost is $15. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 12

  • Chair & Mat Yoga Class — 10-11 a.m. virtually — Traditional yoga incorporates a chair as part of a relaxing meditation.

Thursday, Jan. 13

  • Virtual Storytime Fun (Online) — 10:30-11 a.m. — The Dolley Madison Library children’s librarians bring songs, activities, and stories to your home.

Friday, Jan. 14

  • The Daryl Davis Band — 7 p.m. at the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Ave.) — Pianist Daryl Davis kick off a weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. events, which includes Davis speaking at 2 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 16). Cost starts at $20.
  • Make Me Happy — 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at Falls Church Arts Gallery (700-B W. Broad St.) — Check out the works of three dozen artists, centered on works that make people smile. Free. Continues through Jan. 30.

Saturday, Jan. 15

Sunday, Jan. 16

  • “Traveling While Black” — noon-6 p.m. at the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Ave.) — A virtual reality movie shows participants’ part in the struggle for racial justice. One-hour appointments are available for the exhibit, which runs through Feb. 12.
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A plunger jumps into a pool in Merrifield’s Mosaic District (courtesy Special Olympics Virginia)

A fundraiser that was frozen last year by the coronavirus pandemic is coming back with a new location at the Mosaic District.

Special Olympics Virginia last held a polar plunge at Penny Lane Park in Merrifield in 2020 to help with its programming aimed at serving people with intellectual disabilities. Now, the event is slated to return this year on Jan. 15, with a costume contest at 1 p.m. and people jumping into the water at 1:15 p.m.

This time, though, the nonprofit’s event will have pools in the Mosaic District’s main park and pedestrian area, located by Target along Strawberry Lane.

The donations help individuals participate in the organization’s athletic training and compete at Olympic-like events, while providing school-based programming and health screenings for free to recipients.

“In early 2020 our polar plunges helped sustain us through the first year of the pandemic, and we hope [that] this year, our first year back to in person plunging, they will help continue to get us back on the playing field,” Ellen Head, senior director of development for Special Olympics Virginia, said in an email.

Special Olympics Virginia officials have been watching COVID-19 case numbers and discussing how they should proceed, given concerns over the worsening spread of the virus. Organizers have been reassured by the outside nature of the event — a lower risk environment for the spread of the virus — as well as a masking requirement for parts of the event.

Like other organizations, the nonprofit’s donations have declined amid the pandemic, but it has added virtual programming for participants that it plans to continue beyond the lifespan of the virus.

The organization has raised over $24,000 of a $30,000 goal. Head said it hopes to multiply that goal in coming years.

Photo courtesy Special Olympics Virginia

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Fireworks (via Jorgen Kesseler/Flickr)

The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Tuesday, Dec. 28

  • Open Mic — 6 p.m. at Settle Down Easy Brewing (2822 Fallfax Drive) — Grab some beer and hear from a mix of musicians.

Wednesday, Dec. 29

  • Outdoor Sharpie Tile Art for Kids — 5-6 p.m. at Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library (7584 Leesburg Pike) — Create a design with Sharpies in a program for kids ages 5 to 10.

Thursday, Dec. 30

  • ‘Make Me Happy’ — 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Falls Church Arts Gallery (700-B W. Broad St.) — Check out the works of three dozen artists, centered on works that make people smile. Free. Continues through Jan. 30.

Friday, Dec. 31

  • Countdown to None 5K — 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Old Red Caboose (204D Mill St. NE) — A fundraiser for type 1 diabetes research, the virtual 5K concludes with an in-person race and celebration in the Town of Vienna. There will be music, food, and more, with all proceeds going to the organization JDRF.
  • NYE ’80s Glow Party with DJ D — 8 p.m. at Jammin Java (227 Maple Ave. East) — Get your ’80s-inspired neon outfits out to win prizes and enjoy this retro dance environment. Tickets start at $35. Doors open at 7 p.m.
  • The 8th Annual Grandiose NYE Gala — 9 p.m.-2 a.m. at Hilton McLean Tysons Corner (7920 Jones Branch Drive) — Celebrate New Year’s Eve with three ballrooms of entertainment featuring complimentary lite fare, a champagne toast, and more. Cost starts at $80.

Saturday, Jan. 1

  • Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights — 5-10 p.m. at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens — Enjoy lights and holiday scenes in this annual transformation, which has its last day on Sunday (Jan. 2). Tickets for those ages 2 and over are $18 each.

Sunday, Jan. 2

  • The Gift of Language — 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Mosaic District (920 District Ave.) — A cultural immersion program shares stories in Spanish, games, and arts and crafts at FRESHFARM’s weekly farmers market.

Photo via Jorgen Kesseler/Flickr

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Morning Notes

FCPS Superintendent Search Underway — The Fairfax County School Board discussed the process and timeline for hiring a new superintendent to replace Scott Brabrand, who will leave the position on June 30. The Fairfax County Public Schools community will be able to provide input in an emailed survey next week and focus groups scheduled for mid-January. [FCPS]

Vienna Refines Plans for ARPA Funds — “Vienna officials are leaning toward spending millions of dollars on capital-improvement projects to make the most of an infusion of federal COVID-relief funds…Town officials in the next three to six months will need to devise a final plan for the ARPA funds, which must be spent by 2024, Finance Director Marion Serfass told the Vienna Town Council at a Dec. 13 work session.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Local Hyatt House Officially Rebrands — “The Hyatt House in the Mosaic District of Merrifield officially changed hands Wednesday and donned its new Archer Hotel Falls Church name. As part of the acquisition, Archer Hotel will be conducting a design overhaul of the former Hyatt House Falls Church/Merrifield, with a spring unveiling of the luxury boutique hotel.” [Patch]

Pickleball Study Formally Endorsed — “The Fairfax County Park Authority Board endorsed the Park Authority Pickleball Study Report at their regular meeting on Dec. 8, 2021. The report will serve as a guiding document for Park Authority pickleball site planning criteria, design and operations of pickleball facilities.” [FCPA]

Annual Hiking Photo Contest to Return — “First Hike Fairfax returns with even more award categories, including a new Best in Show (Pets) award. This year, First Hike Fairfax will be a two-day weekend event (Jan. 1-2, 2022) to help promote social distancing and prevent crowding on the trails on one day.” [FCPA]

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Morning Notes

Venus spotted behind clouds over The Boro (photo by ERTRIPP9/Twitter)

County Board to Vote on New Electoral District Map — “The Board of Supervisors’ last full meeting of 2021 will include an agenda of district-specific and countywide proposals. The major items up for consideration are redistricting of the Board of Supervisors and School Board districts as well as expansion of tax relief for seniors and people with disabilities.” [Patch]

Wet Snow Possible Tomorrow — A cold front headed for the D.C. region could bring the first measurable snowfall of the season. Forecasts suggest up to an inch of accumulation is likely, with a ceiling of 3 inches, and the precipitation isn’t expected to stick around long, though the timing could cause some trouble in coinciding with the morning commute. [Capital Weather Gang]

Falls Church Shuts Down New Taco Restaurant — The popular Arlington-based food truck La Tingeria has occupied its new brick-and-mortar site at 626 S. Washington Street in Falls Church for less than a month, but the city plans to revoke its certificate of occupancy, citing complaints about customers parking in nearby residential neighborhoods. [ARLnow]

Santa Hitches Ride in Mosaic District Autonomous Shuttle — “Santa Claus gave Rudolph and the other reindeer a night off as he rode to his Target appearance in the latest driverless technology, RELAY. Santa waved happily to the crowds in Mosaic as his sleigh, aka the autonomous shuttle,  wound its way down District Avenue.” [Department of Economic Initiatives]

Kansas Gives Preview of Capital One Hall Show — “Carry on all you wayward classic rock listeners! Kansas is ready to rock the brand new Capital One Hall in Tysons, Virginia, on Dec. 19…The band will perform the full “Point of Know Return” album, as well as other huge hits.” [WTOP]

Photo by ERTRIPP9/Twitter

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Morning Notes

COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics Coming to Elementary Schools — “Beginning Tuesday, Nov. 16, the Fairfax Health District and Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will offer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, at nine clinics located at schools across Fairfax County. Clinics will be held after school hours, evenings and weekends at nine school sites, initially.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Person Hospitalized by Crash in McLean — Georgetown Pike was shut down between 1:40 and 5:20 a.m. yesterday (Sunday) after two vehicles crashed at the Langley Lane intersection that night. One person was taken to a hospital with injuries considered life-threatening, Fairfax County police reported. [FCPD]

FCPS Shortens Student Quarantines — In an email to parents, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand said, starting today (Monday), the amount of time students have to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure will be reduced from 14 to 10 days, if they have no symptoms. FCPS will also start offering voluntary screening testing for unvaccinated students. [WUSA9]

Deer Bursts into Vienna Barbershop — “A deer broke through the storefront window of Clip & Style Barber Shop, 116 Branch Road, S.E., on Nov. 6 at 1:03 p.m., then ran around the salon and back out the window, Vienna police said. The deer struck one of the employees in the leg. Rescue personnel responded and assessed the employee.” [Sun Gazette]

Mosaic District to Host Holiday Pop-Up Market — “URBNmarket, an upscale handmade and vintage market, is returning to Mosaic for its Holiday Village Extravaganza December 4-5.  Shop for everyone on your gift list from URBNmarket’s 65+ curated artisans. The Holiday Village will also include Caboose Brewing Co. beer garden, Bach To Rock music, kids activities, the FRESHFARM farmers market and more.” [URBNmarket]

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Fairfax County leaders would love to get a repeat of the Mosaic District, but future success with similar public-private partnerships is far from guaranteed.

The mixed-use project intended to kickstart Merrifield’s revitalization has been Fairfax County’s first and only use of tax increment financing, known as TIF, a process that governments across the country have used to help develop areas.

“It’s often called the self-funding tool,” Keenan Rice, president of the Maryland-based public financing consulting firm MuniCap, told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ economic initiatives committee on Tuesday (Oct. 26). “It creates the money that you’re investing to make the project happen.”

One of several tools available to the county for supporting development, a TIF can allow a developer to improve a property but freeze a tax rate for a certain period of time, keeping taxes the same as before the improvements are made.

The base tax rate is still paid, and the remaining money goes to pay off the financing, such as bonds that a government could issue.

A diagram shows how tax increment financing can work (via Fairfax County)

It gives a developer money to launch a project, while the tax rate is fully restored later. A government authority can also require a project to have certain public elements.

“TIFs are risky…because they depend on new development,” Rice said. “Development’s always risky, and TIF projects are probably riskier because that’s why you’re using a TIF for those projects: There’s some unusual challenge to that project.”

To help reduce those risks, the county developed 16 financial principles in 2008 to guide decision-making, ranging from whether a project would have a “catalytic effect on…revitalization” to avoidance of a negative impact on the county’s bond rating.

Board Chairman Jeff McKay mentioned those principles could be updated and requested that county staff re-evaluate them on a 10-year, recurring basis.

Annual reports show the Mosaic District’s TIF generated over $5 million each year from 2017 to 2020, surpassing $5.5 million in some years.

The Board of Supervisors has heralded the Mosaic District as a model to replicate, but they also want to avoid pitfalls and being misled by previous results.

When a TIF fails to deliver

To see what happens when TIFs go wrong, look at Williamsburg in York County, Rice said.

The county approved the project in 2007 to help its Marquis development project, which was envisioned as a hub with a new library, office space, hotels, restaurants, retail, and entertainment, according to a county memo.

But shortly after the bonds were issued, the developer behind the project went bankrupt, Rice said.

The result was a 1980s-style “big box shopping center” featuring a Best Buy, Kohl’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and a JCPenney that closed in 2015 and has remained vacant, though the space has a new owner, York County noted.

Projections of a payoff within a decade and multimillion-dollar annual tax payments thereafter has turned to uncertainty over whether the privately held bonds will ever be paid off, York County administrator Neil Morgan said in a memo.

“I don’t think we can afford to fail,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said.

Officials noted that Fairfax County has other options to help guide development. Rice said TIFs provide upfront capital or financing, but “not every project needs that.”

The Board of Supervisors adopted another tool in September 2020 called an Economic Incentive Program, which provides a potential 10-year tax abatement for properties in certain designated areas.

There are also special assessments and taxes. Mosaic District has both mechanisms in place but hasn’t had to use them, according to the county.

“To the District’s credit, the TIF revenues have exceeded the debt service needs every year, so we have not had to [go] down…option two, special assessment, or option three, special tax,” said Joe LaHait, debt coordinator with the county’s Department of Management and Budget. “We stand with the good fortune of the development in that district.”

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